Do you remember Iraq? How about its capital Baghdad? In the campaign to bring “Democracy” to that nation, the United States and its Western allies were able to utterly destroy that country. Now, the Kurds have their own independent region, the Shi’a control Baghdad and the south, and the Sunnis are somewhere in the northeast and eastern part of the country. Iraqi libraries have been destroyed (Baghdad library being a prime example), its monuments pulverized (the ancient city of Babylon was used as parking lots for US tanks, the national museum of Iraq was looted, and its objects can now be purchased on e-bay). Its power grids, roads, bridges, homes and much more were made extinct. The war to bring “Democracy” to Iraq has brought close to a million deaths and injuries in Iraq and an average death toll of 500 a day since 2008. The country has in a sense lost its cultural, social and moral fabric. That is why Daesh has been created and one can say a truly monstrous group, whose moral stance is unlike anything that we have seen in recent times is ravaging it. They have killed people and destroyed the cultural heritage of that region. One only has to mention the Mosul Museum which held artifacts from ancient Assyria amongst others, and the Mosul library which held the treasures of ancient Christianity in the East, which were all destroyed. According to President Bush, at the time of his tenure, about half a million Iraqis had died, and now the numbers may be closer to seven hundred thousand.
The reason I mention this is that Tom Cotton, the junior senator from Arkansas and 46 other neoconservative senators have come together to warn Iranians that if President Obama and the European powers strike a deal over their nuclear program, the senators will make sure that it would not be deemed a final agreement and that they can revoke it in the future. I have never remembered such ploy in any country in recent history, while its executive office is in negotiations, some of the members of its legislative warn the opposing country not to take the impending agreement seriously. Of course the Iranian foreign minister, Dr. Zarif has reminded these senators that a possible agreement is not solely dependent on the United States, but rather what is known as the five plus one countries who represent the wider world and that under international law, such agreements can not be revoked because a handful of legislators in the US Congress do not like it.
Mr. Cotton in his recent speech has stated that his aim is not negotiation, but rather regime change for Iran. Thus, what is at stake is not tougher negotiations, but rather war, because that is the only way to change the regime in Tehran. If the idea is to starve the people to come to stage a revolt, that is not a likely scenario for Iran, as those in power will not starve or become weaken, but rather their hold on the country will become much stronger.
Regime change basically translates into war with Iran. It is important to bring up the death and injury tolls for American armed forces but also spending billions of dollars which is needed for the sluggish US economy.
But what will be the outcome of war on Iran? Simply put, it will lead to the death of hundreds of thousands of Iranians (remember Iran is a much larger country with twice as much people than Iraq), no matter how “smart” the bombs have become. Everyone knows such a thing does not exist; we should look no further than the US led invasion in Iraq and its “smart” bombings there. Then the museums, libraries and the moral fabric of the country will be destroyed, along with its much of the world heritage sites. The country will implode and it will be divided among many groups, some ethnic and others based on religious affiliations. In a sense, the largest country in the Middle East will be another instable place, from Afghanistan and Pakistan to the East, to Iraq, Syria and beyond to the West. Then no matter how many European countries along with the United States pull their forces together, there will be no peace and stability in the Middle East for a long time. We should also remember that in recent polls, Iranians are ranked amongst the most nationalistic people in the world and an attack on them will not be a simple conquest since they will neither forget nor forgive. If anything, the 1953 US Coup should be a lesson in the historical memory of educated senators such as Tom Cotton. However, the young senator does not have a historical memory of Iran before the hostage crisis and the 1980s.
One wonders who would benefit from a scenario of invasion and war? Would the United States benefit from another unstable country in the Middle East? Iraq had three prominent ethnic and religious groups, while Iran has many more. I would like to hazard a guess as to why Senator Cotton from Arkansas is so bent on war with Iran. At first, it may seem clear that Mr. Cotton is influenced and financially supported by the rightwing and neoconservative pro-Israeli lobby groups who would like nothing more than a weaken or destroyed Iran. Others, such as Saudi Arabia and smaller Arab countries of the Persian Gulf region may have similar aspirations. But as one author has mentioned, it is “Kristol Clear” who is behind the push for such legislation for further sanctions and the eventual war. That it is the pro-Israeli lobby in the United States, headed by Bill Kristol and the Committee for Israel who is funding Mr. Cotton. No wonder not only senators have written to the Iranian leadership at a time of negotiations by President Obama, but also Bibi Netanyahu has been invited by John Boehner, instead of the President of the United States to come and deliver another message for war. These are highly unusual moves in a country whose long standing institutions and ways have been suddenly disrupted.
However, as a final note, I believe there is another reason for which Senator Cotton is so vehemently anti-Iranian and wants to bomb it to kingdom come. In his speech to the Heritage Foundation, he stated that more personally for him (5:53 min), he believes that during his tour of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, it was Iranian roadside bombs that caused the death of many of the American soldiers. There seems to be yet another sign of personal vendetta as well for his dislike of Iranians. Cotton stated that Iran has held hostage a Christian convert priest who has been jailed because he has preached the Gospel of Jesus (7:40min). Thus, we may understand a more personal, war experienced, anti-Islamist, Christian senator who is spearheading the path for sanctions and war against Iran. In his Arkansas Times interview, Cotton stated that President Obama thinks that faith only happens at 11:00am on Sunday morning, but for Cotton, “faith is what we live every single day”. One should not underestimate the power of faith in American politics and now how it can play out against a country which like others in the Middle East has a majority of Muslims. Additionally, one has to be weary of the motives of Senator Cotton, as there seems to be a historical baggage behind his interests for war with Iran. Finally, Senator Cotton should learn some history and geography of the Middle East, a region where he has served two duties. In his latest interview on Face the Nation, he said that “they [Iranians], already control Tehran.” Mr. Senator, Tehran is the capital of Iran and has been so for the past two hundred years!
Touraj Daryaee is a Professor of Iranian History at the University of California, Irvine.